Friday, August 31, 2012


** Spoilers ahead for Divergent **

Tris's world is torn apart. Her old faction, Abnegation, is completely shattered and its leaders murdered thanks to the Erudite mind-controlling the entire Dauntless faction into slaughtering them. Dauntless is split into two factions: those against the Erudite and those with them. She and her friends have no place to call home and don't know which faction to turn to, if any. Each faction has to choose a side in this war. The Erudite seem so powerful while Tris's group is just a few ragtag members of Erudite and Dauntless. She also has to work through her own guilt and conflicted feelings in addition to trying to save all the members of her society from being turned into brainwashed automatons. Can Tris and her band of misfits overthrow this powerful and unscrupulous faction? How will their society change in the aftermath of the war?

After I read Divergent, I had to start reading Insurgent right away. Insurgent wasn't as good as Divergent, but it was still a good, enjoyable book. My favorite parts were the development of the factionless, the bad guys, and the well written action scenes. The factionless played a large part of the novel and weren't as destitute and scattered as they seemed in Divergent. They were rather organized and had numbers that rivaled some of the factions. Of course they didn't access to all resources a conventional faction did, but they were armed and ready to join Tris's group against the Erudite. They also made Tris realize that companionship and friendship can exist without factions to hold people together. In this installment, we get a little more insight into the bady guys' point of view, particularly the head of Erudite Jeanine and Peter. Jeanine  was willing to anything in the pursuit of knowledge. Tris's experience in Erudite headquarters showed that even when committing the most heinous crimes against humanity that at it's core, it's a school that studies and learns without emotion. Peter, the sociopath from Dauntless, was shown to have his own code of conduct, not really recognizing right from wrong. He wasn't just out to do evil, but didn't do good just for the sake of being good. The insight into these characters was important to see how the opposite side views themselves.

There were some things I didn't like. Tris was borderline suicidal for much of the novel, which undermined a lot of the development she had in the last book. This took up a lot of pages and could have been cut down. She also constantly lied to Tobias, which was incredibly frustrating. Just tell the truth and try to develop a healthy relationship! I just wanted to shake her. There seemed to be a serum for absolutely everything and Tris was constantly getting injected with something. It got a little old and after a while, it lost its effect on me. My other criticism was that until the end, not a lot really happened. I think this book suffered from second book syndrome and worked to set up the next book without feeling like a complete book on its own.

Although Divergent was much better, Insurgent was an interesting read. The ending was especially earth-shattering and made me overlook many of the flaws. I will definitely be eagerly awaiting the last book.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Beatrice (AKA Tris) Prior lives in a world ruled by 5 factions: Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. Each faction upholds a certain set of virtues in order to keep the peace. Beatrice was born into Abnegation, but has always felt uncomfortable. Slow to act completely selflessly and constantly scolded, she longs for freedom. She has the opportunity to choose a different faction after the aptitude test, which yields inconclusive result and labels her Divergent. Of course she has no idea what this means and, after being urged to keep it hidden, she keeps it secret from everyone. At the Choosing ceremony, she changes factions to Dauntless, who value bravery. The Initiation process is grueling and torturous, but beyond the Dauntless headquarters, conflict and unrest are growing in the rest of the world. Can Tris make a difference in the face of faction turning against faction?

Divergent is one of the most hyped books I have ever heard, so I was reluctant to read it. I have been burned before by books like Hush, Hush, Fallen, and the Nightshade series. Fortunately, Divergent lives up to all the hype and proves itself to be a unique dystopia with likable characters and constant action. Tris is an amazing heroine. She evolves through the story and makes some mistakes. At first, she is timid and typically Abnegation, but doesn't feel like she really fits in. Then she is thrown into this very different Dauntless world, which is the exact opposite of what she has been raised to believe. She has to figure out for herself what about each of her factions she wants to internalize and what she wants to reject. Many people can relate to this because if you choose a different life for yourself than how you were raised, you have to do that same thing. She makes mistakes sometimes and has to temper the attitudes of the two factions in herself. Her romance with Four is cute and doesn't take precedence over the main conflicts. Plus I actually like Four. He has Tris's best interests at heart and is actually quite vulnerable and sweet under all that darkness and mystery.

I love the world Tris lives in because it's believable that our world would try to solve its problems that way. Right now, things like race, sexual orientation, religion, political leanings, gender, and class separate us from each other. Conflicts arise and our society is split because of these issues. In the Divergent world, none of that matters. Factions were created to eradicate qualities that lead people towards evil, like selfishness, cowardice, and ignorance. The concept could have worked, but, as with anything, people take things too far. Factions are considered more important to people than their own families. Instead of focusing on making peace and upholding what their faction was made for, people hate other factions and work to amass more power. Their values are twisted and distorted until they are unrecognizable. For instance, Dauntless is all about bravery, but the leaders cultivated sadism and cruelty in their members that now that undermines that value. The factionless are also a big problem. They are people who either abandoned their factions or didn't make it past initiation. These people are outcasts that do menial jobs that no one else wants to do and are condemned to live outside the cities in poverty. This system is incredibly flawed and many refuse to see it, even when it blows up in their faces.

Divergent is a wonderful dystopia, much different than the majority out there. The characters felt authentic to me and they actually learned and evolved throughout the course of the novel. I am already reading Insurgent because I can't tear myself away from this fantastic story. Highly recommended to dystopian fans.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Monday, August 27, 2012


In the future where the world is barren, Gaia Stone had just delivered her first baby as a midwife when her parents were taken by the Enclave, the enclosed and privileged city beyond the wall. Three babies from each midwife in each sector are advanced to the Enclave to lead better lives. It's paradise there and something people outside of the wall never see, but must always serve without question. Gaia has no idea why her parents were taken and waits for days after her own interrogation for any answer. After hearing that her parents will be executed soon, Gaia is determined to go beyond the wall to rescue them. What she find beyond the wall will shock her and force her to completely change her world view. In turn, her actions will change the Enclave forever.

Birthmarked is an interesting dystopia that had some twists and turns I didn't expect. I've been reading a lot of dystopias with enclosed, supposedly idyllic series, but this one is different. The imperfect, diseased, and weak people are condemned to live in poverty and serve the Enclave without ever being part of that world. It's hard work to live, but Gaia and her family have always been happy. When Gaia infiltrates the Enclave, she is shocked to see how different it really is from the propaganda films they are shown. People can be arrested and detained for no reason at all. People are publicly executed as an example to the rest of the population. Incest and genetic abnormalities are a problem because the initial population of the Enclave was too small to begin with, revealing the necessity of bringing in new children to expand the gene pool. This practice also ensures that those outside the wall will never rebel because their own children, brothers, and sisters will suffer. The dumbest thing about this dystopia is that the government bars the creation of any hospitals because it encourages the weak. Hospitals would improve and lengthen their lives in general. It just seems like the whole time, these people are just hurting themselves.

I really like the main characters. Gaia is wonderful heroine with a defined sense of herself and what is right. Before going into the Enclave, she believed taking newborns from their mothers was right and helped her society. Her perspective only changes when she discovers the ugly truths behind the Enclave and adjusts accordingly, working towards the greater good. Her first priority is to save mothers and children like her mother taught her since childhood. Leon is much more fleshed out than love interests usually are. He has his own issues growing up inside the wall, but he is still an outcast. Gaia opened his eyes to the horrible things in his society that he was just used to. I like that the romance with him is a small part of the story than in no way overpowers the rest of the novel.

I liked Birthmarked, but the pace was a little uneven. There was a lot of running around, getting captured, escaping, hiding out. It seems like it could have been streamlined a little bit. Other than that, it was a solid dystopia that got under my skin. The story was realistic and I was interested the whole way through. I would definitely pick up the next book in the series. Recommended for dystopian fans no afraid of grittiness.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mailbox Goodies 5

Goodies in my mailbox from the past couple of weeks!!

1) Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan for review from Amazon Vine

Sarah Rees Brennan is hilarious and a great YA author, so of course I can't wait to read this.

2) Ashen Winter by Mike Mullen, a gift from my sister

Great timing since I just read Ashfall and I'm eager to see what happens to Alex and Darla.

3) The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block for review from Amazon Vine

I will read anything by Francesca Lia Block. Her prose is always so lyrical and beautiful and the magic she brings to mundane things is wonderful.

4) vN by Madeleine Ashby, purchased from Barnes and Noble

I had to read this after io9 reviewed it as the most messed up book about robot consciousness ever.

5) Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, purchased from Barnes and Noble

After Anna Dressed in Blood, I had to buy the next book because it was one of the best YA horror novels I have ever read.

6) Lullaby by Amanda Hocking for review from Luxury Reading

I have the first book for review and I've heard a lot of good things about it. I hope it's better then her Trylle series.

7) Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs for review from Luxury Reading

I'm a sucker for Greek mythology and I really liked the first book, even though it basically ended in the middle of the story.

8) Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

I have been waiting for this book forever!!! I LOVE The Little Mermaid and I need to see how Jackson Pearce makes it her own. So excited!!!!!!

Any opinions on these books or want to share your own mailbox goodies?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dark Parties

Neva Adams lives under the Protectosphere. The government tells the inhabitants that there is nothing outside of it, that they are lucky to live there, and that they need protection from the outside world. Throughout Neva's life, people have suddenly gone missing and people around her adapt to the change, not acknowledging that a person is really gone. She and her friends decide to protest and show people that the Protectosphere is harmful with the shortages of just about everything from clothes to technology that hasn't been updated since the sphere was created. Their anti-sphere graffiti makes a huge splash and puts them under the scrutiny of the government. It just makes Neva more determined to find proof of all the lies and find out what really happened to the missing people. Will she and her friends escape the authorities and find the information they are after?

Dark Parties has been on my reading radar for a while and I finally picked it up on impulse at the library. It's a quick read and I liked the world for the most part. The Protectosphere, which is the most obvious and lame name ever, supposedly protects the people within from the dangers of the outside world. The government erases parts of their history and people from their society. They choose everyone's careers and allocates them to the most useful sectors, cutting out the arts entirely. To manipulate its citizens, the government purposely makes certain items scarce, such as birth control to encourage pregnancy to expand their numbers. There are all the trappings for a great dystopia are here. What confused me was the lack of new technology and inability to sustain the old technologies. It would improve the inhabitants quality of life and lure them into a false sense of security in addition to allowing the state to successfully spy on the people. Most of their cameras didn't even work and they relied on the presence of them to be intimidating. The lack of basic things like clothes just makes it seem that goods can't be produced almost at all to sustain the people under the dome. Maybe if people were happier and their needs better met, the state wouldn't have to make so many people disappear.

The characters frustrated me for the most part. Neva wasn't the best heroine. She had guts and nerve, but would do the dumbest things. She criticized her best friend for falling for a guy she barely knows and then does exactly the same thing with the same guy! She also seemed to take a lot of things at face value for someone trying to sift out the truth and lies from the world around her. The most annoying thing about her was that she was more concerned about the drama with a boy and her best friend than with the bigger picture where she could possibly die for her rebellion. Her best friend Sanna is a girl that will change herself and her convictions to please a boy. The boy in question, Braydon, is basically a cardboard cut out of a person with red cowboy boots like Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother: no character development, no real personality, and no development of any relationship with him. I would have loved this book at least 80% more without this useless, annoying romance and half-assed love triangle/square.

Dark Parties wasn't horrible, but I wouldn't call it good either. The dystopia kept my interest and was my favorite part, even if some if it seemed counterintuitive. The characters were mostly annoying and the romance distracted from the overall plot. I'm not sure if this is a series, but there has to be something exceptionally compelling in the blurb for the sequel to get me to read it.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Alex Halprin is a typical sulky teenager who bickers with his sister and fights with his mom constantly. He sulks his way into staying home alone for a weekend while his family visits his uncle in a town about 2 hours away. Celebrating his good luck, Alex settles down to play some video games when his room suddenly collapses. He manages to escape safely, but the danger isn't over. The supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park just erupted and the explosion can be heard all over the US. Ash falls for weeks so heavily that the sun is blotted out. Alex's entire world changes. People he has know forever commit horrific acts to survive. Food and clean water are scarce. The air is hard to breathe. After recovering from the initial shock, Alex decides to find his family and make sure they are safe. The journey leads him to many unexpected places and he will experience death, sorrow, hunger, but also love and friendship. His enduring hope is to find his family at the end of it all.

I hadn't heard a lot about Ashfall before I read it. I was expecting a mediocre, typical disaster novel, but I was so incredibly wrong. Ashfall is one of the best books I've read all year. I loved just about everything about it from the eerily realistic situations to the pacing to the tone to the characters. I couldn't put the book down and read it in every spare moment of my day. The thing I most loved about the novel is the realism. There wasn't anything supernatural in the story at all. Everything that happened in the book is well within the realm of possibility. The science of supervolcanoes was very well researched and plausible, although there is a lot simply not known about them. The rapid breakdown of society after the eruption completely makes sense. The necessities of life are scarce and most people seem to try to hoard these items or forcibly take them from others. Few actually try to help each other, which is depressing but realistic. It shows how things like community, trust, and friendship are precious and rare in truly extreme situations. The pacing could have been terrible since Alex's adventures were chaotic and oftentimes rapidly changing. However, from beginning to end, through his travels and his stints staying with various people, I was always engaged and excited to see where Alex would go and what he would encounter next.

The characters are what makes this book so special. Alex is a typical teenage boy. He isn't superhuman or imbued with powers, but uses everything he has plus logic to make the best decisions. Of course he makes mistakes and blunders about a bit, but he learns and changes from an annoying sulky teen to a strong, resourceful man in a very short time. What makes Alex truly exceptional is that he never loses his humanity, his kindness, or his sense of what is right. In a post-apocalyptic world, it's shockingly easy to justify the most of horrific of acts as survival. Darla is my second favorite character as Alex's companion and friend. Alex may be skilled in Tae Kwon Do, but Darla has way more physical strength and mettle due to working on a farm since childhood. With her practical knowledge and strength, she saved Alex many times. I loved their romance. It grew organically through time spent together and developed through mutual support and care. Ashfall could have been an incredibly depressing, soul sucking book, but their sweet relationship and teasing back and forth provided just enough hope and light to counteract some of the heart rending events. I am usually against a lot of romance in non-romance novels as it tends to overpower the plot, but in this case it is essential to the balance of the novel.

Ashfall is an excellent novel, rivaling many books in the post-apocalyptic genre in general. I like that things aren't sugar coated for a teen audience, including the killing of animals for food and the general violence in this world beyond laws. I can't wait for the next book, due out in October. I would highly recommend this to just about anyone.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Mia Price and her family moved to Los Angeles because lightning rarely strikes there. Mia is a lightning addict and has been struck countless times. Red lightning scars cover her body, a mark of each strike. A huge earthquake hits LA, leaving devastation in its wake and thousands of people displaced, injured, traumatized, or dead. Mia is trying to pick up the pieces of her family and make them whole again. Her mother is practically catatonic and her brother is distant. She and her brother go back to school to get rations from the government and they are approached by two different cult-like groups: the Followers of the Prophet and the Seekers. Both want to enlist Mia for their cause and are kind of creepy. The Followers and the Prophet paint themselves as God's chosen ones and claim to know the exact date of the end of the world. The Seekers want to stop the Followers. Mia just wants to be left alone to pick up the pieces of her life, but she gets sucked into the two cults' conflict anyway. Which side will she eventually end up on?

I really like a lot of the concepts in Struck, particularly the warring cult groups, the setting, and the supernatural aspects. Religious fanaticism is one of the scariest things in the world to me. Anyone can interpret religious texts to say whatever they want and manipulate a group of people into doing insane things as a result. The Followers and their blank, serene stares and their all white clothes are just creepy. The Seekers are slightly less creepy, but not by much with their brands, masks, and red cloaks. People in this book and in real life do the most horrible things in the name of religion and it makes me sick. This aspect is by far the most disturbing thing in the novel. I love the setting in Los Angeles. It's one of my favorite cities and I have been to most of the places she talks about, so I can easily envision how it would look all ruined and post-apocalyptic. The supernatural aspects like her affinity for lightning and the powers of the different groups are unique and never really explained. I enjoyed that it was simply a part of this universe and a different kind of power than is typical.

I have a few problems with the novel. First of all, Jeremy is plain creepy. A guy trying to kill you in the night with a knife is a not a cue to ask him on a date. News flash: abusive, dangerous guys are not sexy and never will be sexy. Please stop writing them this way. Mia had a lot of decision making problems throughout the novel that were kind of annoying. I also just felt that there was something missing in the book. It was all pretty straight forward and the ending fell a little flat to me.

Overall, Struck is a fun YA dystopia that brings in elements I haven't seen mixed together like creepy cults, lightning and energy powers, and LA in ruins. I would definitely read what Jennifer Bosworth writes next.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Burn Bright

Retra has wanted to escape to Ixion ever since her brother abandoned her to go there. She lives in an oppressive society where she is a Seal, who upholds this society that denies human nature and things like pleasure and freedom. Ixion is the exact opposite of her home, Grave. Teens from everywhere go there to party, imbibe in various intoxicants, and revel in freedom. Retra finally escapes to Ixion, despite the extreme pain of the obedience strip on her leg, only to find that it's much darker and more dangerous than she realized. Her brother is nowhere to be found and she is drawn deeper and deeper into the disorienting and intoxicating parties. The Ripers, the leaders and guardians of Ixion, are mysterious and not as benevolent as they appear. Can Retra keep from getting sucked into this decadent world and escape with her brother?

I went into this book thinking it would be just like all the other young adult dystopian fiction out there. I was pleasantly surprised and completely blown away by the dark world and strange characters. Grave, the awful place Retra grew up in, was oppressive and horrible. There were no freedoms and obedience was obtained through pain and systematic torture. As the story unfolds, more of her past is revealed, going as far as showing that sexual abuse and abuse of power was commonplace with the officials there. Ixion was supposed to be the ultimate experience for teenagers with its constant parties, availability of intoxicants, and encouragement to give into base desires. Underneath all of that, the inhabitants were still kept ignorant of the actual workings of the place, just as in Grave. Retra essentially traded one dystopia for another possibly more dangerous one. Ixion was home to night creatures and Ripers (who I kept calling Rippers in my head, which seemed to be more appropriate). Night creatures were frightening. Any time one of the teens would veer into the darkness, they would be immediately attacked by night creatures, savage and hungry grotesqueries. Their origin proved to be so much more chilling than their attacks. The Ripers make everyone think they are guardians and just want to protect the teens, but they are split into opposing factions: one that wants to continue as it has always been and another that wants to change their ways to pursue more selfish endeavors. I was interested, yet repulsed by both the night creatures and the Rip(p)ers.

The characters were engaging for the most part and served an interesting purpose. Retra wasn't the most charismatic character, but her strength and determination were undeniable. At first, her unease with everything in Ixion kind of got on my nerves, but it was understandable looking at where she came from. She grew on my over the course of the novel because she was willing to stand up to the Ripers and protect her friends when no one else would. It was odd that she changed her name about halfway through the book, but her whole demeanor changed too and it actually made sense with the events of the novel. Suki was a friend that Retra made in Ixion who was from a completely different place where women are warriors and men are subservient, the opposite of Retra's world. She, and other characters, showed how Ixion was the culmination of many different cultures that were completely unaware of each other. I really liked Suki because she was a warrior and stuck by her friends. Lenoir, the head Riper, was a bit like the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. I went through a lot of the book trying to decide which side of the evil/good spectrum he was on. I liked him even though he gave Retra the runaround a lot when she tried to ask clear questions.

The only part of the book that didn't work for me was the romance (as usual). Retra fell for a random guy on the boat to Ixion and held on to that random crush for the whole novel. I didn't like him and found him to be annoying and unworthy of Retra's affections. The only good thing about him was his ability to play the guitar. Other than this one annoying and lackluster character, Burn Bright was just about perfect. The novel went places I didn't expect and pushed my perception of young adult novels. I can't wait to read the sequel Angel Arias and anything else Marianne de Pierres writes.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Rhine and Gabriel successfully escaped the mansion that held them both prisoner: Rhine as an unwilling bride and Gabriel as a servant. They thought the hardest part was over, but their hardships are truly just beginning. Rhine is determined to find her twin brother in Manhattan, but on the way, they encounter terrible situation after terrible situation, starting with almost immediately being abducted and forced to work at a brothel where both Rhine and Gabriel must bide their time until they can escape. Through all their misadventures, Rhine is getting more and more sick. Can Rhine and Gabriel cure Rhine of her mystery illness and find Rhine's brother?

Fever is an odd book and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I enjoyed the grittiness and the themes of a darker, more adult nature and the writing in general. Our characters dealt with issues such as prostitution, sexual assault, drug addiction, poverty, and polygamy. This book was much more bleak than the first because, instead of showing how the very privileged rich people lived, it showed the post-apocalyptic real world. The ramifications of war and global warming on our world are explored in detail. The only outside world focus in the previous book was the idealized version that Gabriel and Rhine yearned for in their gilded cage, so it was nice to see how it was really like. The writing drew me in and kept my interest as it did in the first book, but I felt that the novel didn't really go anywhere until the very end.

On the other hand, the book was very uneven in more ways than one. The pacing is horrible and the entire book felt very static. The entire first situation is identical to that of the first book: they are stuck in a place where they bide their time and play nice until they can escape. I already read that book. Please move on. The world building is kind of wonky. There is no middle ground in this world at all; there are just super rich people, super poor people, and criminals. That's all. It feels a little simplistic to me. The way women are treated is kind of weird. Since they die a few years younger than men, they should be treated a little better than trash to be killed at a moments notice, especially when the government is encouraging people to procreate to prevent humanity from dying out. The danger aspect is also very uneven. One minute Rhine can't walk down the street without being kidnapped and the next things are fairly normal. If things had been a little less to the extreme one way or the other, I think it would have been better.

Fever is a weird feeling book that falls into the snare of the second book in a trilogy. It basically sets up for the next book and not much else. The writing was still delightful and I enjoyed the book in general, but a lot more things got on my nerves here. I am looking forward to the next book, even if Rhine's brother sounds like a controlling tool.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Team Human

New Whitby was founded by vampires, but no one ever really sees them. They stay in their shad neighborhood and humans stay in their neighborhood. Many people romanticize them and their existence, but  Mel Duan definitely is not one of them. She was perfectly happy being basically oblivious to vampires' existence until Francis enrolls at her high school. Of course it causes excitement with the students and for some reason Francis has glommed on to her group of friends to hang out with. Cathy, her best friend, seems to have a crush on Francis, but over time it turns into a horrifying and sickeningly sweet romance between the two. Meanwhile, Mel's other friend is freaking out because of the vampire and the fact that her dad ran away with a vampire client. Her mom who is also the principal acts really weird around Francis, leading Mel to believe he is either threatening her or knows something about the missing husband. Then things get so much worse when Cathy and Francis declare their undying love for each other and Cathy wants to turn into a vampire. So it's Mel's responsibility to save her best friend from a lifetime with a creep and figure out her friend's mystery.

Team Human is a brilliant parody of typical vampire novels (like Twilight and other such clones) by two very clever and very awesome YA authors, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. It addresses questions brought up in those ridiculous, melodramatic vampire romances and goes beyond that to create a realistic story that has something real to say. It seems really ridiculous for a vampire who is over a century old to go back to high school and spend time with people who are over a hundred years younger than him. High school is boring for teenagers and must be a thousand fold more tedious and boring to vampires. Francis' excuse is writing a book about humans and following around various students, peppering them with questions. It's also pretty creepy for a teenager and someone about 10 times her age to be in a relationship together, which is also never addressed anywhere else. This instalove vampire romance is compared with a normal romance between Mel and a boy raised by vampires. Their love story grows out of getting to know each other and basing the relationship on something real.

The very rude voice of reason that brings all of these truths to light is Mel Duan, the best character in this book. For the most part, the vampires' lives are romanticized by everyone around, but Mel exposes the drawbacks and truths about wanting to change into one, namely dying, becoming a zombie and then dying, and losing the ability to laugh and cry if the process is successful. It was nice to see someone in a supernatural novel that wasn't blinded by the beauty and mystery of vampires and never lost sight of the fact that vampires are dangerous and we are their food. Mel isn't perfect. She feels that it's her responsibility to take care of her friends, but also gets super bossy and rude if they disagree. She has their best interests at heart, but she has some growing to do. In the end, she realized that she has to accept her friends and their life decisions even if she doesn't agree with them.

Team Human is a great book that pokes fun at vampire romance tropes while both using them and subverting them. Justine Larbelestier and Sarah Rees Brennan worked wonderfully as a team. What could have been just the poking fun of a bloated and tired genre, they took the opportunity to tell a real story that people can relate to and that actually says something. This one is for vampire lovers and haters alike.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mailbox Goodies 4

Books I got in my mailbox this week!

1) The ENTIRE Autumn series by David Moody

I won this from Forces of Geek just in time for September Zombies preparation! I will be reading Autumn: The City next.

2) Wake by Amanda Hocking from the Amazon Vine program

3) The Infects by Steve Beaudoin from Librarything Early Reviewers

Have you read any of these? What did you guys get in your mailboxes?

Friday, August 3, 2012


The Kingdom of Goredd was once at war with dragons, but a treaty was forged between them to keep the peace. Dragons now take human form to be part of human society where they can make advances in the fields of math and science. Many humans still hate dragons and condemn the treaty as folly. Conflicts between humans and dragons are increasing and becoming more dangerous as the fortieth anniversary of the treaty nears. Seraphina Dombegh is an incredibly talented musician who works to hide the true extent of her talent. She wants attention as far away from her as possible because she is half dragon and half human. Recently hired as a court musician and apprentice to the court composer, she arrives on the scene just in time for a member of the royal family to be murdered in a suspiciously draconian manner: beheaded and the head missing. Seraphina stumbles upon the investigation when she observes suspicious behavior and wants to uncover the truth that may be tied to her own draconian family. Paired with the captain of the Queen's guard, Lucian Kiggs, she will try to solve this mystery while protecting her own secrets before the treaty is completely shattered and the humans and dragons declare war in earnest.

I was interested in reading this book mostly because of the different take on dragons and the inclusion of music. I am so impressed with Seraphina. Rachel Hartman's sentient and insanely logical dragons are so intriguing and different than any portrayal I had seen before. They abhor emotion and irrationality, kind of like extreme Vulcans, but are more susceptible to both in human form. Their society even go so far as to mandate brain surgeries for those too compromised by either. These cold and intellectual creatures hold science and mathematics in the highest regard. If they attempt to play music, which is possible since it is simple mathematics at its core, they lack the emotion to give it any sort of expression. Music played a large part in the novel and I couldn't be happier about it. A lot of YA novels have music in their descriptions or a character plays an instrument, but many times, this aspect is either downplayed more than I thought it would be or completely forgotten. (I'm looking at you, Hush, Hush.) In this book, music serves as a plot device, furthering character development, and making the book simply enjoyable to read. Rachel Hartman's descriptions of music is beautiful and sensory. I wish there was a companion music album to the novel to get an idea of what the music would sound like.

The world building is magnificent in this book, but the characters are what kept me reading. Seraphina is a rare female character in YA literature. It is so refreshing to see a YA heroine who is logical and not irrationally led by her feelings to do really stupid things. Her powers of perception and deduction are impressive and, paired with her good judgment and sense, they allow her to methodically find out what really happened. Unfortunately, she has to lie a lot to keep her parentage and half dragon state a secret, which gets in the way of her investigation and distances her from others. There is a small romance subplot, but it doesn't distract from the main plot and it doesn't turn Seraphina into a blithering, brainless idiot. It was also sweet and gave Seraphina a softer side without completely destroying the strong person she is. The minor characters are just as good and well written, particularly Loud Lad and Orma, her dragon uncle.

Every time I picked up Seraphina, I was insanely happy being immersed into this wondrous world. I wanted to prolong the reading as much as possible because I know I'll have to wait a while for the next book. This is by far the most unique and well written fantasy book I have read all year that included discussion on philosophy, art, music, dance, emotion, logic, bigotry, and love. There aren't enough fishmuffins to show how much I love it. Highly recommended for lovers of dragon tales and epic fantasy.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Everyone is plugged into the Community. Their senses are dulled and emotions simply don't exist anymore. Everything is done for the greater good with no thought to selfish desires. Zoe has started to glitch. She is periodically free from the Community ad experiences raw emotions, sensations, and a sense of self. She knows she should turn herself in for the good of all, but ultimately decides to hide it out of curiosity. The risk is great and rapidly escalates as her emotions are hard to hide and she develops telekinesis. If anyone discovers her secret, the authorities will deactivate her. There are others like her and a Resistance exists outside of the community which occasionally infiltrates, but their efforts may be useless if anyone finds out about them.

I love reading about dystopian worlds where even emotion is outlawed, like Glitch or Equilibrium. It's just something so fundamental to humans that it seems an impossibility to ban it. I was definitely drawn into Heather Anastasiu's unique world where technology is used to sedate and dampen the masses into little automatons that don't protest or care about anything. The government is free to do whatever they want with people: kill them, enslave them, or make them do anything. When Zoe glitches, she starts to question her whole society and sees value in these emotions instead of destructive as she has always been taught. The world building was one of my favorite parts because it just fascinates me. The writing was fluid, engaging, and succeeded in sucking me into the world. It made me gloss over some of the flaws while I was reading the book because I was so interested in the world and the conflict.

There are some very glaring flaws. It was interesting to see Zoe dealing with new colors, emotions, and situations, but it was very uneven. For someone who has never experienced a lot, she had names and definitions for many things she shouldn't have. I liked Zoe for the most part and I understood her emotions throughout the novel, although others may find her annoying. The things that really annoyed me were made up curse words and one of the love interests. Come on. If you're going to use curse words, please use the normal ones in our parlance. If you think they will really offend, just don't use any at all. I cringed every time one of them came up. It sounded very juvenile and grated on my nerves. On to my next grievance: Max is another glitcher that she goes to school with. He is very selfish and is fascinated with sexuality to the point where he was pushy and demanding. He truly disgusted me and the fact that Zoe continually forgave his horrible behavior and basically thought to herself how nice he really is underneath it all. No, Zoe. It's not ok and he's not nice. Ugh. I just wanted to shake her and get her to see how much of a jerk he was.

Glitch is a fun new dystopian novel with some unique elements and also some big flaws. I will definitely stick with it for the next installment to see what is in store for these characters and hope that some of these flaws are corrected.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
Read as part of Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.